Photoshop in the style of Margaret Keane by

Nancy SimPanda. Used with permission.

Towards More

Peteresque Speech

by Anne Sharp

It’s hard to be a Peter Lorre fan. There seems to be a universal agreement that Peter should always be described in the most repulsive, degrading manner possible, often with terminology that could have come straight out of an antisemitic pamphlet ("whining," "sniveling," "cringing," etc.)  It's not unusual for those who supposedly admire and respect Peter--even his fellow Jews--to insult the crap out of him. In his Weimar Berlin-era mystery “Shadow and Light”  Jonathan Rabb makes Peter introduce himself as “an ugly little Jew.”*  Leonard Wolf, in his "Horror: A Connoisseur's Guide to Literature and Film" describes Peter’s character in “Mad Love” this way: "Gogol's sepulchral voice, his absolute baldness and his pale, unhealthy plumpness make him seem like an erect larva who has been force-fed, bleached and then smeared in cold short, an altogether unappetizing figure of a man and for him to be in love with anyone, much less a woman as beautiful as Yvonne, seems something of a blasphemy.”**

I don’t get this. If you like Peter, why not say nice things about him? Here is a suggested list of terms that are more polite, fresher, and most importantly, true.

To describe that most distinctive of Peter's features, his voice:

Instead of


"nasal" (gevult!)





"liltingly Viennese"

Referring to his eyes,

instead of





"ping-pong balls"

"soft-boiled eggs"









Instead of


















Instead of

















And of course

Instead of


always use


*To see the full irony of this, look up Jonathan Rabb on Google Images.

**Wolf's daughter Naomi is the author of "The Beauty Myth."

***Peter dealt with being constantly referred to as “creepy” by going around calling other people (including Jack Warner) “kreeps,” and insisting it was a neutral word meaning something like “dude” or “guy.”

(c) Anne Sharp. All rights reserved.

Photoshop in the style of Margaret Keane by Nancy SimPanda. Used with permission.